He said to them, “How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken! Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27)
In Luke’s account of the post-resurrection happenings of Jesus, we come to an interesting passage that teaches us a lot about how Jesus views Scripture.
As they walked on the road to Emmaus, followers of Jesus (one named Cleopas) were discussing the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. And it’s then that Jesus himself came to walk and talk with them, although—incredibly—they did not recognise him. Unwittingly, they mentioned to Jesus that some women, angels and disciples testified he was no longer in the tomb he was buried in. They were grieved, because they’d hoped Jesus was the Messiah (Luke 24:22-24).
In their unbelief, despite the fact that Luke tells us that the two men were keptfrom recognising him (Luke 24:16), Jesus rebuked these men harshly. Jesus was effectively saying it didn’t matter whether they recognised him in the flesh or not. They should have been confident of his resurrection from the dead, and that he was the Messiah, simply because that is what Scripture already told them. It didn’t matter whether they had seen Jesus themselves—the men should have known that glory comes through suffering, just from reading the Old Testament.
This teaches us something about what it really means to believe. On the one hand, belief is intellectual. You have to put some pieces together, and see what the Scriptures say. As you read or hear the Bible, you see that God has revealed his plan well before Jesus came to earth. But of course, belief is also spiritual. Jesus says that these men are slow to believe in their hearts. It’s a matter of trusting God’s promises in Scripture are true. And this means, of course, that believing is not about seeing.
Jesus makes this very point earlier in Luke’s Gospel, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man has died and is suffering in hell. From Hades, he begs God to send Lazarus to his house to tell his five living brothers the truth, while there’s still time (vv. 27-28). For surely “if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent” (v. 30).But the reply comes:“They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them… If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead”(vv. 29, 31).
This is Jesus’ opinion on the matter of belief. And it is shocking. You see, I used to think that if someone could see the historical credibility of the eye witness accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection, that they would have to believe. I even thought that if we could somehow build a time machine and go back to 33AD, people would see the actual events and would have to believe. But that is not true. There were many people there in 33AD, who heard Jesus teaching and saw him do miracles and even then, many did not believe. In fact, they hated him so much that they crucified him.
I also used to think the way to help people trust the Scriptures was to start by proving the resurrection, and then once that bridge was crossed, go back and show how the rest of Scripture was also true. After all, Jesus’ resurrection is the stamp of authority that proved the authority and trustworthiness of whole of Scripture. Yet while it might be helpful in our evangelism to go straight to the resurrected Jesus and call for repentance and trust in him as Lord and Judge, that is not the way to prove that Holy Scripture is truth.
And that is because weare not arbiters of truth. God is Creator, Ruler and Judge; we are creation. It is God who decides what is true; we are to obey and humbly submit to that truth. God has revealed himself in his word, and we are to believe it simply because it is God’s word. And God himself shows us that all of his word is true: everything he has said comes to fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ. All his promises find their Amen in the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 1:20). So, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29).